Sparta Telestroke

May 28, 2013

Patients in need of emergency medical care for stroke may benefit from Mayo Clinic’s telestroke program now available at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in Sparta.

In telestroke care, the use of a computer allows a patient in Sparta’s emergency room to be seen and heard, virtually, by a Mayo Clinic stroke neurologist in Rochester in real time. The Mayo Clinic stroke neurologist, whose face appears on a computer screen, consults with the local emergency room physicians and evaluates the patient.

Patients showing signs of stroke can be examined by the neurologist via computer, smart phone technology, portable computer tablets or laptops. In addition to assessing the patient, the Mayo Clinic neurologist can view scans of the patient's brain to detect possible damage from a hemorrhage or blocked artery.

“A stroke is called a ‘brain attack’ for good reason,” says Howard Schumaker, M.D., emergency medicine physician in Sparta. “As with a heart attack, a stroke is a medical emergency. Quick access to a neurologist at the patient’s bedside – through use of a computer – is a major benefit to patients who present in our Emergency Department with stroke symptoms.”

“Excellent physicians at Mayo Clinic Health System can ring the telestroke hotline and be instantly connected with Mayo Clinic's stroke experts," said Robert Brown, M.D., Professor and Chair of Neurology, and leader of the Mayo Clinic Telestroke program in the upper Midwest. "Urgent and immediate virtual care can be provided to patients — this collaboration between stroke neurologists and physicians at the remote sites results in a very high  accuracy in diagnosing stroke and increased use of the most effective treatments.”

Dr. Brown explains telestroke technology is not intended to replace face-to-face communication with patients. "But research strongly suggests that the technology can enhance evaluation and treatment for patients in rural areas, as well as peer-to-peer collaboration among physicians," he says.

It is estimated that more than 45 percent of Americans live more than 60 minutes away from a primary stroke center. If a stroke has occurred, "every minute is precious," says Dr. Brown.

Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse began using the Telestroke program in December 2012.

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